'Troubling Allegiance' to Pesticide Company: Trump's EPA Claims Glyphosate Poses No Risk to Human Health
By Eoin Higgins
President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday wrapped up a regulatory review of the safety of the weedkiller glyphosate and found the chemical poses no risk to human health — a decision that was immediately decried by advocates as another indication of the closeness between the administration and private sector interests.
"The Trump EPA's assertion that glyphosate poses no risks to human health disregards independent science findings in favor of confidential industry research and industry profits," said Lori Ann Burd, the Center for Biological Diversity's director of environmental health. "This administration's troubling allegiance to Bayer/Monsanto and the pesticide industry doesn't change the trove of peer-reviewed research by leading scientists finding troubling links between glyphosate and cancer."
The EPA came to the conclusion after reviewing the chemical's effects on humans, but the determination is unlikely to change views on either side of the conflict over the chemical's safety.
"A whole lot of people will disagree" with the EPA, tweeted Civil Eats founder and editor Naomi Starkman.
As Reuters reported:
The conclusion reaffirms the agency's stance on glyphosate, the key ingredient in Bayer AG's Roundup, despite judgments by U.S. juries that have found that use of the weedkiller was responsible for plaintiffs' cancer in some trials.
In 2015, the World Health Organization's cancer arm classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans."
There are reportedly tens of thousands of lawsuits against Bayer/Monsanto for the chemical's cancer links, and the company is considering settling the claims for between $10 and $12 billion.
Thursday's decision is not expected to have an effect on those suits. But the message the EPA is sending, the Center for Biological Diversity's Burd said, is clear.
"The EPA's pesticide office is clearly willing to bend over backwards, including disregarding its own guidelines for evaluating cancer risks, to give the industry what it wants," said Burd.
As Common Dreams has reported, Trump's EPA has been criticized by advocates for years for its closeness to Bayer/AG and its treatment of glyphosate.
Media strategist Jen Degtjarewsky gave a blunt assessment on the president's environmental record in the context of Thursday's ruling.
"It's open season on clean air, water, and soil," said Degtjarewsky.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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